The plantar fascia is a thick fibrous band that runs the length of the sole of the foot. The plantar fascia helps maintain the complex arch system of the foot and plays a role in one's balance and
the various phases of gait. Injury to this tissue, called plantar fasciitis, is one of the most disabling running injuries and also one of the most difficult to resolve. Plantar fasciitis represents
the fourth most common injury to the lower limb and represents 8 -10% of all presenting injuries to sports clinics (Ambrosius 1992, Nike 1989). Rehabilitation can be a long and frustrating process.
The use of preventative exercises and early recognition of danger signals are critical in the avoidance of this injury.
Repeated small injuries to the fascia (with or without inflammation) are thought to be the cause of plantar fasciitis. The injury is usually near to where the plantar fascia attaches to your heel
bone. You are more likely to injure your plantar fascia in certain situations. For example, if you are on your feet for a lot of the time, or if you do lots of walking, running, standing, etc, when
you are not used to it. (Plantar fasciitis may be confused with 'Policeman's heel', but they are different. Policeman's heel is plantar calcaneal bursitis - inflammation of the sack of fluid (bursa)
under the heel bone. This is not as common as plantar fasciitis.) Also, people with a sedentary lifestyle are more prone to plantar fasciitis. If you have recently started exercising on a different
surface, for example, running on the road instead of a track. If you have been wearing shoes with poor cushioning or poor arch support. If you are overweight this will put extra strain on your heel.
If there is overuse or sudden stretching of your sole. For example, athletes who increase running intensity or distance; poor technique starting 'off the blocks', etc. If you have a tight Achilles
tendon (the big tendon at the bottom of your calf muscles above your heel). This can affect your ability to flex your ankle and make you more likely to damage your plantar fascia. Often there is no
apparent cause for plantar fasciitis, particularly in older people. A common wrong belief is that the pain is due to a bony growth or 'spur' coming from the heel bone (calcaneum). Many people have a
bony spur of the heel bone but not everyone with this gets plantar fasciitis.
Pain tends to start gradually, often just in the heel, but it can sometimes be felt along the whole of the plantar fascia. The symptoms are initially worse in the morning and mostly after, rather
than during, activity. As the condition becomes worse, the symptoms become more persistent.
The health care provider will perform a physical exam. This may show tenderness on the bottom of your foot, flat feet or high arches, mild foot swelling or redness, stiffness or tightness of the arch
in the bottom of your foot. X-rays may be taken to rule out other problems.
Non Surgical Treatment
No single treatment works best for everyone with plantar fasciitis. But there are many things you can try to help your foot get better. Give your feet a rest. Cut back on activities that make your
foot hurt. Try not to walk or run on hard surfaces. To reduce pain and swelling, try putting ice on your heel. Or take an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) or
naproxen (such as Aleve). Do toe stretches camera.gif, calf stretches camera.gif and towel stretches camera.gif several times a day, especially when you first get up in the morning. (For towel
stretches, you pull on both ends of a rolled towel that you place under the ball of your foot.) Get a new pair of shoes. Pick shoes with good arch support and a cushioned sole. Or try heel cups or
shoe inserts. Use them in both shoes, even if only one foot hurts. If these treatments do not help, your doctor may recommend splints that you wear at night, shots of medicine (such as a steroid) in
your heel, or other treatments. You probably will not need surgery. Doctors only suggest it for people who still have pain after trying other treatments for 6 to 12 months. Plantar fasciitis most
often occurs because of injuries that have happened over time. With treatment, you will have less pain within a few weeks. But it may take time for the pain to go away completely. It may take a few
months to a year. Stay with your treatment. If you don't, you may have constant pain when you stand or walk. The sooner you start treatment, the sooner your feet will stop hurting.
Surgery for plantar fasciitis can be very successful in the right patients. While there are potential complications, about 70-80% of patients will find relief after plantar fascia release surgery.
This may not be perfect, but if plantar fasciitis has been slowing you down for a year or more, it may well be worth these potential risks of surgery. New surgical techniques allow surgery to release
the plantar fascia to be performed through small incisions using a tiny camera to locate and cut the plantar fascia. This procedure is called an endoscopic plantar fascia release. Some surgeons are
concerned that the endoscopic plantar fascia release procedure increases the risk of damage to the small nerves of the foot. While there is no definitive answer that this endoscopic plantar fascia
release is better or worse than a traditional plantar fascia release, most surgeons still prefer the traditional approach.
Stretching your plantar fasciitis is something you can do at home to relieve pain and speed healing. Ice massage performed three to four times per day in 15 to 20 minute intervals is also something
you can do to reduce inflammation and pain. Placing arch supports in your shoes absorbs shock and takes pressure off the plantar fascia.